Padres scouting report: Michael Johnson

First baseman Michael Johnson is known more at the present time for being a teammate of Padres' shortstop Khalil Greene. But the 24-year old is trying to escape that shadow and carve out a career he can be proud of.

Although he was taken in the 2002 draft, Johnson didn't sign until days before the 2003 draft. He was slated in Lake Elsinore and repeated the California League again in 2004.

After hitting .275 in his first stint with the Storm, Michael Johnson was poised for promotion, pending a solid start to his campaign.

That start never materialized. An April that saw him hit .222 put him behind the eight ball and it wasn't until August 29 that his averaged climbed above .250 for the year. In fact, on May 16, Johnson's average was below .200. If there was one positive note on all that is his dedication to consistency and ability to get stronger as the season wore on.

He did have an unwanted hiatus from the game, however. An injury caused Johnson to miss over a month of action. When he returned, his confidence at the plate was up, but his defense was poor.

"We were hoping we could get a little more out of Mike," Tye Waller, the Padres' Director of Player Development said. "He did have a setback with his injury and we could not get him to keep any hitting consistency. We are hoping we can make that adjustment."

The stroke that had eluded him most of the season was found late, hitting .333 over the final two weeks of the season. He hit four homers and knocked in 15 in his final ten games. He also hit .271 during the month of August. The spark is there, but it is about harnessing that ability over a full season.

"He came to the Instructional League to work and went home with a plan," Waller added. "Hopefully he can bring it in next year and we can see that power. He certainly has power. He can drive the ball out of the ballpark to all parts of the field. It is just that consistent stroke."

Johnson remains a classic all or nothing hitter. He struck out once every 3.1 at bats and walked once every 7.6 plate appearances. His 15 homers were second best on the team and tied for fourteenth in the league. His 64 RBI's place him third on the team.

Waller would like to see Johnson hit some homers with men on base. Eleven of his 15 shots were of the solo variety. He hit .264 with runners in scoring position which was slightly better than his average for the year.

Ironically, the left-hand hitting Johnson had a .308 average against those of the same ilk in 107 at bats, while batting .230 against right-handers.

"He has to be consistent in his approach and work on driving the ball," said Waller. "Sometimes he worries about just trying to get hits. That is the worst thing you can do. All you can do is put a good swing on the ball, hit the ball hard and that is all you can control. If he can understand that, I think he can become a producer."

The fear for Johnson comes with his high strikeout totals. He has whiffed 154 times in 134 games throughout his brief career in the Padres' system. With great power comes forgiveness over those totals but Johnson can't suffer through many more setbacks. At 24, and with his former college teammate already in the Majors, the pressure is on Johnson to perform.

Denis Savage can be reached at Denis@sandiegosports.net


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